Now, I need not do more than, in a sentence, remind you of the basis upon which the thoughts in the text, and all right understanding of Christ’s work on an individual, repose – and that is that, without righteousness, no man can either be at peace with God or with himself. Not with God – for however shall experience may talk effusively and gushingly about a God who is all mercy, and who loves and takes to His heart the sinner and the saint alike – such a God drapes the universe in darkness and, if there are no moral distinctions which determine whether a man is in amity or hostility with God, then “the pillared firmament itself is rottenness, and the earth’s base built on stubble” [John Milton, Comus, lines 597-598 – RZ].
No, no brethren. It sounds very tender and kindly but, at bottom, it is the cruelest thing that you can say, to say that, without righteousness, a man can please God. The sun is in the heavens and, whether there be mist and fog down here or the bluest of summer skies, the sun is above. But its rays coming through the ethereal blue are warmth and blessedness, and its rays cut off by mists are dim, and itself turned into a lurid ball of fire. It cannot be – and thank God that it cannot – that it is all the same to Him whether a man is saint or sinner. – Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), commenting on Hebrews 7.2.